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Dec  2014 17
Faculty Offers Advent Response to Racialized Violence

The ecumenical faculty of Phillips Theological Seminary adds its collective voice to the movement proclaiming that Black lives matter.  In doing so, we join others in deploring our country’s legacy of racism and White supremacy – a legacy that, even today, keeps us from being neighbors to one another. 

Our faith indeed teaches, and we believe, that all human beings are made in the image of God.  But when one group is singled out and dehumanized, Christians are called to tell the truth about the injustice.  And the truth is this: African Americans are disproportionately likely to meet with lethal force at the hands of police, security guards, and self-appointed vigilantes -- even when they are suspected of committing very minor crimes, or no crime at all.

So thoroughly has racism corrupted our collective imagination, that “black body” has come to mean “threat.”  This is the dreadful lesson in the deaths of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, John Crawford, Darrien Hunt, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Tamir Rice, Tarika Wilson, and far too many others. 

Sometimes one’s regard for an institution requires one to hold it accountable to its highest ideals.   It is not anti-police to raise concerns about the militarization of community police forces.  Nor is it anti-American to insist on a criminal justice system that ensures equal protection for all.  And it is not anti-Christian to pray that, with God’s help, all churches would be places where injustice is resisted, courage displayed, privilege dismantled, and shalom sought. 

We recognize that, as full-time faculty members, we hold many kinds of privilege – both individually and collectively, both historically and in the present configuration of our life and work.  We commit ourselves to the work of unmasking systems of privilege, and we expect that work to unsettle us.  We submit that lofty conversations about an ideal diversity should never be used as a diversion from the difficult work of resisting oppression. 

We give thanks to God for the courage and witness of leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement.  We seek to follow their example, even as we guard against co-opting their work.  We confess our complicity in injustice, and we ask forgiveness from persons we have wronged.  Finally, we pray for all who mourn, that they will know both comfort and justice.  We offer this prayer of Advent longing:

Prayer of Advent Longing

In a time when some are left to wonder whether black lives matter,
In a time when children are killed and left in streets and on sidewalks
well after their premature last breath,
You are present, O steadfast God.

God, you are present with everyone
Who hungers and thirsts for justice,
Who lives in fear,
Who grieves,
Who buries loved ones,
Who cannot breathe.

So too, God, are you present
With everyone whose hunger is satiated, and thirst quenched,
Who prioritizes comfort over justice,
Who chooses silence or distraction,
Who forgets to speak out, or who drowns out others with their speech. 

O God, help us to see ourselves and each other
In the light of your justice.
Deliver us from the fear of who we might encounter.
Enable us to recognize our prejudices,
And give us ears to hear each other –
And by hearing each other, hear you. 

Embolden us to make possible the hope of human dignity
Without diminishing real experiences of despair and suffering.
Fashion our Advent longing into works of justice
For a human community
Where no one doubts they matter.

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